Thursday, April 11, 2013

Enlarged heart versus inflamed heart

Recently, I blogged about my latest "condition," an inflamed heart.  I talked about how I had decided to have gastric bypass years ago after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart.  I figured they were the same issue.  And apparently they are not. 

I took phen fen years ago, which caused heart valve defects in some patients.  As part of the class action lawsuit settlement, I was entitled to a free heart scan (woohooo!).  Although my valve was in tact, I was told my heart was "enlarged and flabby."  You know, if my heart was working so hard hauling my lard ass around, it should have been svelte and in-shape.  I remember my doctor telling me that I needed exercise to lose weight but that I shouldn't let my heart rate get over 130 beats per minute.  Oh ok, as soon as I get up in the morning, I think my heart rate jumps that high.  Again, I should have been a walking, talking fat-burning machine if all of those books and heart rate estimates are correct. 

Anyway, so what is an "enlarged heart?"

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Enlarged heart (cardiomegaly) isn't a disease, but rather a symptom of another condition.

The term "cardiomegaly" most commonly refers to an enlarged heart seen on chest X-ray before other tests are performed to diagnose the specific condition causing your cardiomegaly. You may develop an enlarged heart temporarily because of a stress on your body, such as pregnancy, or because of a medical condition, such as the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems or abnormal heart rhythms.

While having an enlarged heart may not always be preventable, it's usually treatable. Treatment for enlarged heart is aimed at correcting the underlying cause. Treatment for an enlarged heart can include medications, medical procedures or surgery.

While I did not openly have any of the listed causes, being over weight is a generally-accepted "excuse" or reason for "heart problems" in the medical world.  So, I opted for the weight loss cure through gastric bypass.

Fast forward nine years.  I lost 165 pounds, then gained 65 back.  I'm still 100 pounds lighter than I used to be.  Recently, another doctor ran some tests and found that my heart was inflamed.  Enlarged.  Inflamed.  All words just saying I have a BIG HEART.  Turns out, that is not correct.

What is heart inflammation?

According to Heart.org:

...inflammation is common for heart disease and stroke patients and is thought to be a sign or atherogenic response. It’s important to know what inflammation is and what it can do to your heart. 

According to Alive.com:

Excess body fat can lead to a host of heart diseases. Veins and arteries become compromised, and blood vessels in legs and microcapillaries in eyes can wear out three times faster in overweight individuals. There is also an increased risk of high blood pressure with each additional pound of fat.

Most of us know the effects of being overweight where the heart is concerned. Unfortunately, what is less well known is the effect of excess inflammation on the heart. You may associate inflammation with the redness, swelling, or heat you see or feel when you get a cut, bite, or minor infection, or with the pain you feel in a swollen joint (as in arthritis). But uncontrolled inflammation is also at the root of heart disease.

Research published in a 2004 issue of the journal Circulation indicates that the immune cells of obese individuals seem to exist in a proinflammatory state, which places these individuals at an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Increasingly, researchers are showing that fat cells are prime production sites for proinflammatory messengers such as IL-6, TNF-a, and C-reactive protein (CRP levels are a well-known indicator of heart disease).

I had my c-reactive protein tested. Over 3 was bad. Mine was almost 5.

So, although enlarged hearts (think fatty, neglected, over-worked heart) and inflamed hearts (think not-well-cared-for, abused-with-bad-food-and-no-exercise, swollen heart) [*that's sarcasm, by the way*] are potentially related, they are not exactly the same thing.  And again, heating healthier and exercising (which they say will lead to weight loss) is the generally "cure."  Medications can be prescribed in more severe situations.  I don't have a lot of the symptoms that they claim go along with these issues.  For example, no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol.  But heart issues do seem to run in my family.  So, maybe my weight doesn't matter and my heart just isn't built to tick right. 

To be real and honest, my family history does play a part in this and apparently exercising (even if not to lose weight) and eating less fatty food (again, even without the intention to lose a single pound) is important.  I am trying to be very aware of the food I put in my mouth and make more time for exercise.  I have added krill oil to my diet and I now take a baby aspirin every day (not good for gastric bypass patients, yes, but I guess a potential stomach ulcer is better than a potential heart attack). 
I'm 36.  I feel like I shouldn't be dealing with these kinds of issues.  Is it pre-destined?  Did I do this to myself?  I guess it doesn't matter but if I want to stick around awhile longer, I better take my health a little more seriously.  Anyone else had these issues?  How do you deal?

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